The modern employee is less concerned with the accomplishment of an objective“good” and more concerned with self-fulfillment in the short term. This short-term fulfillment becomes defined as the good. Ultimately, that which makes the employee happy is considered, “good”. Developing a company of selfless individuals is the responsibility of each of us. We must define what is “good” and we must reflect in our actions what the process of achieving “good” looks like.
“The complacent man is, in a manner of speaking, a slave to what pleases him, in the sense that he has trouble stepping back from what pleases him and examining it with a critical eye,” writes French philosopher Chantal Delsol in her book, “Icarus Fallen”. While her book does not focus on labor and the meaning and purpose of our work, we may compare this area of life to her bigger ideas.
Many employees never consider how their actions affect other employees and clients. How a departure without notice may strain a system or stress another individual. How a failure to be responsive and available creates fear in a client or vendor. How an attitude can pollute a successful team or divide departments. A lackadaisical approach to customer service leaves so many people confused and frustrated. In these examples the employee only values their happiness.
Even more important is a loss in the nobility of service to others. In our industry (insurance) we provide a system of indemnification. People give us a little money that we manage and when something bad happens in their life we may need to provide a large sum of money to them or those they injure. This has everything to do with maintaining a system that keeps our economy moving forward and we should consider ourselves privileged to participate in such a vital industry.
An employee may end up in a system of complacency. Complacency is defined as a feeling of smug or uncritical satisfaction with oneself or one's achievements. Complacency lives by its own ethics. As a manager you may sit in countless employee reviews where you are overwhelmed by comments and expectations that scream of complacency. These usually come in the form of unrealistic demands, or implied harms. Employees in reviews or disciplinary actions may use terms that make them appear to be victims, and if not victims, faux heroes. They can’t define the good in their work, only the things they perceive will make them happy.
Employees cannot find due north unless you provide a compass.
Employees cannot find due north unless you provide a compass. Leaders outside a clerical system have long been held accountable for the "care of souls". Gregory the Great in the late fourth century wrote in his Pastoral Care, "...the care of souls was the primary duty of those leading." (Inventing the Individual, Larry Sidentop, Harvard University Press, 2014, pg. 159). This format was also promoted by Charlemagne during the Carolingian empire, encouraging not only leadership in the public realm but to assist with the individual conscience.
There will always be much to grapple with in our work environments. We must always be promoting respect, diligence, commitment, learning and care.
If all your time is spent pressing for revenue growth without defining how your company or your product serves others, you will create an army of self-serving individuals concerned only with what they get out of the effort in the short-term. The following generations, whether requesting it or not, are wanting us to bring wisdom and clarity to labor. They want us to show them why their labor is good, and they expect to be respected and treated with goodness by leadership as a form of discipleship.
We must assist in replacing the ethics of complacency with a defined good which an entire team of people may understand and rally to achieve.